Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

Being the youngest of 6 children in My family, It is perhaps more difficult than my siblings for me to remember much of the things that my father did, or said, that makes him special to me. So, I sent e-mails to all my brothers and sisters, asking them to send me a short story or anecdote that best describes what our father meant to each of us. For some reason, I didn't get any replies. So, I will simply tell what he means to me.

My father and I had what many would probably agree was the typical rebellious teen/loving but firm father relationship. We fought on numerous occasions over what I wanted to do versus what he wanted me to do, which were, of course, the "right" things. Somehow we made it through and I grew to respect the man on so many levels as time went on.

At this point, I am reminded of something Mark Twain once said:
"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

Now for some memories. I remember more than a few times that my mother would tell me to "Go help your dad" when he was working on the washing machine, or the car, etc. I would go and stand there looking bored and he'd say, "what do you want?" and I'd say "Mom told me to help you." he'd say, "You wanna help? stay out of the way!"
We were a church going family, but I was not the best behaved boy in church. I remember specifically 2 occasions when my father responded to my behavior unusually. By that I mean he didn't respond the way I would have expected. Both times I had been caught doing something I shouldn't have done in church. I expected, both times, to really get a beating when I got home, (not really beating, just a good spanking, in retrospect) but instead once he dropped by the Dairy Queen on the way home and bought me a pineapple sundae. The other time, he just said nothing about the incident. Years later, I realized what he was thinking. The fear and humiliation I was already feeling was punishment enough. And he was right.

Fast forward on to his final days. My father died of a long lasting painful disease called Chronic Respiratory Pulmonary Disease. Once, while visiting him at his bedside on a day that I sincerely believed was very nearly his last, he astounded me with a revelation. He told me about 2 times when he had been proud of me. Perhaps it would be important to say at this time that my dad was not one given to displays of effusion, however, on this occasion he spoke about a time, years before, that I had stood up in church and told the congregation that I was glad that my parents made me go to church with them when I didn't want to go. Personally, I had forgotten that I did that. But he hadn't. He also told me he was always proud of how good a basketball player I was. Knock me over with a feather! I had no idea he even knew I played much basketball! Incidentally, I wasn't that good. I tried out for the 7th grade team and was cut, and was so devastated, that I never tried out for another sport in school. But he never said a word about it.
My older brother told me, just last year, that Dad believed if you didn't make any money from the things that you did that it wasn't important. I know that sounds like a pretty shallow man, but you have to see the man the way I do to understand and realize just how special that made him. I wish my siblings had responded to my request, those anecdotes would tie this together so much better.

Dad didn't die in the next few days. Instead, a very different and miraculous thing occurred. He entered the hospital shortly thereafter with severe breathing difficulties, and the Doctor told my mother that he would be surprised if Dad lived through the night. That day, my father prayed to God, asking him to either take him or cure him as he could no longer go on in his present condition. And, contrary to what you are supposed to do, he gave God a timeframe to work with. He told God he wanted to be cured or dead by 2:00 PM the next day. At precisely 2:00 the next day, Dad drew the first unobstructed breath he had drawn in years! From there, he made a complete recovery and was running up steps in a matter of weeks! Dad didn't just sit back and enjoy this new lease on life he had received. Not my dad. He applied for and was given a mission from the state home mission board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the next few years, he planted and pastored a small church in Claflin, Kansas. I believe that was the work God had been grooming him for his entire life. And so did he. After establishing that church, and making sure it was self sufficient, his disease returned and shortly thereafter, he died in my mother's arms.

I don't have many more memories of him that are worth sharing. They are just little things that are special to me alone, that I'm quite sure no one else would be able to appreciate. One thing that I have always been grateful for: I got the chance that so many people never get, and that is, I was able to reconcile all the differences I ever had with my father before he died. I don't feel guilty. I don't feel sorry I never got the chance to say "I love you, Dad". Because, you see, I did tell him I loved him.

Happy Father's Day and God bless you, Dad, rest in peace.

8 comments:

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Sorry for the delete (we really could use an edit feature).

That was a nice write up. I'm sure your father is looking down from heaven, grateful for the tribute and remembrance.

FrenziedFeline said...

Between you and Tech, my makeup has a limited shelf life today!

Nice memories. :)

Melanie said...

Well, that was just the sweetest thing I've ever read. For some reason it reminds me of the movie "Big Fish", which I totally adore.

Poison Pero said...

Very nice Father's Day post.

I wish I had such great things to say about my dad.

He bailed on my mom, sister and I when I was 8, and hasn't been much since.

I've used this as the focal-point in my relationship with my kids, and hope it has made me a better father and husband.

TECH said...

Thank you for sharing. Your dad sounds like he was really cool.

Mark said...

Tech, well, he was to me.

Daffy76 said...

After reading this post, I'm beginning to think that you and Tugboatcapn are soul mates.

We are from a Pastor's family too. Upbringing sounds scarily similar.

Keep up the great posts-
Tug's sis.